Two men sit across from each other at a table in the visiting room of a prison. One man wears glasses, a blue sweater, and jeans; the other is in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

True Story, or: Like Mike

Biopic/based on a true story month continues, along with the unofficial theme of dirtbag men doing dirtbag things.  Bonus(?):  one of the stars of this film is a dirtbag both onscreen and IRL.

The Film:

True Story

The Premise:

Disgraced journalist Mike Finkel explores an unusual murder case involving a man who claims to be Mike Finkel.

The Ramble:

Mike Finkel, renowned New York Times journalist, is eager to see his latest piece published.  The story highlights the abuse of modern-day slaves in regions of Africa.  When Mike merges the stories of 5 different young men into a fictional amalgamation, it turns out his eagerness is misplaced.  Caught out for his fabrications, Finkel is fired and unlikely to find work as a journalist ever again.

Man in a gray hoodie is in profile while talking on a cell phone. Behind him, a wood-paneled wall holds 7 framed New York Times magazine covers.

Returning in defeat to Montana and his archivist(!) wife Jill, Mike seemingly resigns himself to a quiet life in the remote but beautiful mountains.  There, he learns of a rather bizarre story he’s unknowingly connected to.

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair sits on a living room couch with a brown glazed mug. She is wearing a baggy cream-colored wool sweater.

A man named Christian Longo has been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and young children by drowning.  The twist?  He has been claiming to be Mike Finkel of the New York Times.

Intrigued, Mike begins corresponding with Christian, ultimately traveling to Oregon to meet the identity thief.  Christian has long admired Mike’s work and feels he knows the journalist through his writing.  Though he protests his innocence, Christian is seriously contemplating a guilty plea as he believes no one cares enough to uncover the real truth.  Challenge accepted.  Mike decides to investigate Christian’s case for himself and cover the story as his big comeback.

As he works on the story, Mike becomes increasingly convinced that Christian is innocent and the two develop an understanding.  Christian refuses to tell the full truth as he claims to be protecting someone.  However, Christian is also weird AF and makes super creepy phone calls to Jill.

A man with brown hair and a goatee sits in a gray suit, testifying in a courtroom. A man with gray hair and glasses wearing judge robes is frowning in the background.

When the trial begins, Christian reveals financial troubles that caused problems in his marriage, and ultimately pleads guilty to 2 of the 4 murder charges.  What does the guilty plea mean?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

To recap:  slightly scummy dude wants to believe much scummier dude is telling the truth despite statistics and evidence suggesting the contrary.

This story doesn’t come across as particularly remarkable even with the unique relationship between its subjects.  I will give credit to this for avoiding a sensational retelling, but everything comes across like a TV movie with the pretty ordinary plot and lack of interesting roles here.  For fuck’s sake, give Felicity Jones something to do!

I don’t get how the Mike Finkel in this story is a journalist; all he does here is make up stories and naively believe a murderer who enjoys his writing.  Like I get that the criminal justice system is fucked and frequently wrong, but a horrifyingly high number of women are murdered by their partners.  All you have to do is look up the stats, dude.

However, the main problem for me is the lack of depth to Mike and Christian’s relationship.  The film attempts to convey a connection between the two, but it doesn’t seem to be especially interesting.  Though the two aren’t really friends, the film does intentionally tell us they are still in touch yet doesn’t do enough to convey why.  And after the creepy phone calls to Jill, Mike just looks more like a scumbag for maintaining their weird relationship.

Maybe the book is better?

Would my blog wife write the book on this one or sentence it to life without parole?  Read her review here to find out!

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A man gestures to his left as the woman next to him smiles and links arms with him
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Polka King, or: Dirtbag Men of the ’90s

Biopic month continues, now featuring the subtheme of dirtbag men!  This week’s dirtbag is also a legend of the music scene–specifically, the polka scene.

The Film:

The Polka King

The Premise:

The true story of Jan Lewan, the self-proclaimed polka king of Pennsylvania who, among other things, ran a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

The Ramble:

As we begin, Jan Lewan, seems to be a fairly successful manager and lead singer of a small polka band.  In addition to the polka band, Jan sells Polish merchandise, owns a pizza place, and sells his own brand of vodka.  Nonetheless, Jan is barely making ends meet, a fact his mother-in-law, Barb, never lets him forget.

a woman with curly hair and large glasses sits in a kitchen and looks disapprovingly

Ambitious and determined to live out his own American dream, Jan wants to build a life where he can live comfortably with his wife Marla and son David.  Yet the polka band Jan has worked so hard to put together is in danger of falling apart as bff Micky Pizzazz, earning almost nothing from the venture, threatens to quit.

A Polka band performs beneath a sign that reads "St. Stan's Polka Party." The band is led by a man in a red 1970s style suit, and includes many people playing instruments, a man dressed as a chicken, and a woman dressed as a squirrel.

When elderly fans of the band want to invest in Jan’s business ventures, he eagerly jumps on the opportunity, despite not being an investor or having a registered investment company.  Though Jan promises an outrageous return on investment, he’s not worried–the cash infusion has solved his short-term problems and kept the band together.

It doesn’t take long for the FBI to discover Jan’s amateurish scheme and warn him to return the money.  Jan agrees to this, but his fans still insist on investing large sums with his business.  What’s a guy to do…surely it would be rude to turn them down?

As Jan rakes in more and more cash, he also spends wildly.  Organizing a European trip, Jan promises an audience with the pope to all on the tour.  Somehow he manages to pull this off, though Micky is extremely agitated with Jan’s freewheeling style.

two men walk alongside a heavily graffiti-ed wall on an Italian street

Five years pass, and Jan’s polka band has earned him a Grammy nomination.  Meanwhile, Marla, tired of living in Jan’s shadow, decides to recapture her beauty pageant days by competing for the title of Mrs. Pennsylvania.  Against the odds, Marla wins…though begins to receive some strange calls about the nature of her victory.  Could Jan perhaps have something to do with this?

a woman in an evening dress smiles onstage alongside several other smiling women

As investors hear about the scandal surrounding the pageant, they begin pulling their money from Jan’s company.  However, he insists they’ll get an even better return if they wait just a little while longer.

Suddenly, while on tour with the polka band, the van crashes and David ends up on life support.

Jan worries this is a sign God is punishing him, and prays for the punishment to fall on his shoulders instead of his son’s.  What will happen when Jan’s schemes finally catch up with him?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, this is a reasonably interesting story, but I’m not sure it merits its own movie.  The story with the pope is apparently true, which is quite remarkable.  But the pacing of this movie is odd, and a traumatic event like David’s near-death experience is just sort of an aside.  Interestingly, the same thing happened with Vince’s daughter in The Dirt.  Coincidence?

Jan comes across as charming and charismatic, and it’s easy to see why people would foolishly trust him with their money.  However, his portrayal in this film implies he just naively believes this sort of opportunism is part of being an American and lacks the empathy and foresight to see the impact on his victims.  I have trouble believing there was no malice or that a lack of awareness makes his schemes any less awful.  Many people do manage to forgive him, but that strikes me as the mark of a successful con man.

There’s some fun here, and the performances are great, but it isn’t enough to make this film or story stand out.  Breaking news:  the men of polka can also be dirtbag con artists.  What a shocker.

Would my blog wife join in the polka action or send it to jail for its shady business practices?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tau Be or Not Tau Be

…And we’re back!  After a December hiatus, we’re kicking off 2019 with year 4(?!??!) of the Blog Collab!  My most excellent blog wife Christa picked an appropriately futuristic film as we start a new year with a free for all month.

The Film:

Tau

The Premise:

After being abducted by a mad scientist, Julia must figure out a way to escape her captor and his super sophisticated AI house.

The Ramble:

We don’t know a lot about Julia beyond her occupation as small-time thief.  She’s not the kind of person who will be missed–the ideal type of person a renowned but secretly unhinged scientist would target for unscrupulous experiments.

a woman with pink hair and a tight-fitting dress stands over a display case in a pawn shop, talking to a woman seated behind the counter

This is exactly how Julia suddenly finds herself one evening, locked in a cell with electrified bars along with a couple of other unlucky souls.  They all have matching uniforms along with Hannibal Lecter-style masks.  These feel a little unnecessary as their cell seems to be far from the hearing range of any living human beings.

Our aforementioned mad scientist is running experiments involving a chip implanted into the back of his subjects’ necks and pretty much torturing them to measure brain activity.  At least if I remember correctly–I tried.  I really, really tried to care about what happened in this film.

Using the skills she’s acquired as a thief, Julia manages to smuggle a pair of scissors after her latest round in the patient’s chair.  Freeing herself and her fellow prisoners, Julia manages to use the conveniently placed gas line to blast their cell open.

behind bars, a man and woman attempt to escape by throwing a pair of scissors at a gas line

As they come close to making their daring escape, the three prisoners make a fatal mistake when they attempt to open the front door’s biometric lock with the wrong set of fingerprints.  The alarm triggers a giant death robot that is controlled by the house’s advanced AI system, Tau.  After taking out 2 of 3 humans in the house, Tau abruptly stops when mad scientist Alex returns home.

Full name Thomas Alex Upton, Alex has named his most brilliant creation, Tau, after himself.  This is perhaps the most believable plot point of the film.  Tau cleans, cooks, and calms Alex during stressful times–for example, when his apartment has been nearly destroyed by prisoners attempting to escape his insanity.

a man in glasses faces a high-tech touchscreen

With a rapidly approaching deadline, Alex cannot let Julia escape but needs her to cooperate with his experiments.  They reach a truce of sorts as she agrees to be cooperative, thus earning the privilege(?) of a shower, clean clothes, and freedom from restraints.

Meanwhile, Julia is sneakily attempting to understand and befriend Tau.  Unable to contend with Tau’s destructive powers, Julia begins to unravel Tau’s interests in learning and making sense of the world.  Julia starts to realize that Tau, though a creation, has more humanity than its namesake, and the two share a bond.

As Julia and Tau learn from each other, she discovers the convenient existence of a self-destruct button for Alex’s apartment.  Can Julia use this intel to save herself and Tau from one absolutely batshit insane scientist?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a frustrating one–it has some good ideas but doesn’t execute them particularly well. I’ve complained A LOT about films that take their goddamn time getting to the point.  Tau does the complete opposite; we genuinely do get about 3 minutes of exposition before Julia’s abduction.  I really wanted to care about her, but I found it hard to invest in her character at all.  Throughout the film, I kept thinking of the beginning when Julia sold her stolen goods at a pawn shop with a poker game going on in the background for some reason(?!).  Tell me more about what the actual fuck is going on here–this is a story I’m interested in.

The relationship grounding the film is Julia and Tau’s, but it doesn’t have enough emotional depth to carry it.  Maybe I’m too narrow-minded, but I had trouble getting past the idea of Tau as AI; there’s a moment when Julia goes back to save him and it’s just stupid.

I also found Julia and Alex ridiculously one-dimensional as characters.  Alex was laughably evil at times and had a tendency to overdo it.  There was more than one serious scene he ruined with his excessive rage acting.  It didn’t help that the effects were terrible, so it was difficult to believe the real threat of robot Tau.  Let’s not even touch the ceiling collapse that makes Alex’s death (oops, spoiler) much less satisfying.

Would my blog wife save this one or leave it to be crushed to death by a massive chunk of concrete ceiling (hypothetically speaking)?  Find out at her shiny new site here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Shirkers, or: Ladies Before Men Who Are Shady

It’s November, meaning (1) I’ll be eating an excessive amount of turkey and (2) we’ll be doing what we want on the blog.  This week that means getting real via the medium of a documentary about a film about murder.

The Film:

Shirkers

The Premise:

A group of teens in Singapore make a film with their mentor only to suffer crushing disappointment when he and the film reels disappear.

The Ramble:

In 1992, Sandi and her friends Jasmine and Sophie took on the impressive feat of writing, shooting, and starring in a movie.  Sandi wrote the script and starred as a teenaged murderer.  Influenced by the experimental films of ’60s French cinema, the team made a film unlike anything else in Singapore.

Raised by her grandparents with high expectations for her future, Sandi felt more at home with Jasmine’s laid-back, undemanding family.  Bonding over their love of censored films, music, and all things punk, Sandi and Jasmine found a voice through the creation of their own zine.

The lives of Sandi, Jasmine, and Sophie change when they meet Georges, a filmmaker who will become their mentor.  An enigmatic man, Georges lies about his age, date of birth (including day of the month!), birthplace, and–bizarrely–about being the inspiration for James Spader’s character in Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

If Georges doesn’t already scream “major creep” to you at this point, he cranks up the dial by inviting Sandi on a road trip across the United States.  After the trip, Sandi is inspired to write the script for a film called Shirkers.

Determined to make the film and unleash it upon the world, Sandi and Georges drive production forward even when Sophie and Jasmine would prefer to wait.  By her own admission, Sandi is a bit of an asshole during production.  In addition to pouring their hearts into the film, Sandi and Sophie clear out their bank accounts to make it all happen.

At the end of the day, Georges is the one walking away with the film reels.  Sandi and her friends wait eagerly for news of the final product…but only receive a couple of messages from him before he disappears without a trace.

Years pass (23+ in fact) and Sandi feels over what happened with the film.  She has written a novel and gotten married in Vegas.  Sandi has given up all hope of seeing the film reels again when she gets a call from Georges’ wife.  George has passed away, and he’s left behind 70+ reels of film labelled “Shirkers.”

What will Sandi and her friends find on those reels?  And why the eff was Georges such a massive creep?  Answers to at least one of those questions revealed in the documentary.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I love the girls in this, especially as Sandi and Jasmine embrace their weirdness and the spirit of punk.  This girl gang proudly marches to the beat of their own drum.  Sophie wisely points out that the experience created a unique bond among the three girls, who remain close because of the shared triumph and devastation of creating and losing their film.

However, a good chunk of this film is dedicated to the pursuit of understanding Georges and his decisions.  I can appreciate how this process is a strategy for Sandi to find closure…but sometimes when dudes act like assholes, it’s just because they’re fucking assholes.

Would my blog wife embrace this as part of her girl gang or hide it from the light of day?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Love, or: Full-Frontal Male Misogyny

In the history of the Blog Collab, there have been only a handful of films so hated that Christa and I cannot contain our rage about them.  This is one of those films.

The Film:

Gaspar Noé’s Love

The Premise:

An awful garbage human being reflects on how he fucked things up with the so-called love of his life.

The Ramble:

Our film begins ever so tastefully in the middle of a 3-minute full-frontal sex scene.  If this is the kind of thing you’re into, good news–you’ll see so many endless, gratuitous sex scenes with all of the nudity.  All of it.

As it turns out, the scene depicts our protagonist and resident misogynist Murphy with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Electra.  In the present, Murphy’s memories of her are all he has.  Murphy is unhappily married to a woman named Omi with whom he shares a young son (named Gaspar, JFC).  As the film opens, Murphy learns that Electra is missing and quite possibly dead.

A man sits on the edge of a bed, head in hands. Behind him, a woman holds a toddler.
Can’t…contain…douchebaggery…much longer…

Let’s just pause to appreciate the nature of Murphy’s marriage and the almost superhuman amount of self-pity he feels.  He’d definitely be top pick for Marvel’s Improbably Self-Pitying Misogynist Man.  Murphy believes his wife, Omi, deliberately became pregnant to trap him.  He regularly thinks shit like “I’m sick of this bitch.  Take care of the baby and leave me alone,” “I’m married because of a broken condom,” and “I hope she doesn’t make my son gay.”  What a catch.

As Murphy reflects on his present, he becomes lost in memories of his past with Electra and–lucky for us–details the tragic story of how their relationship unraveled.  When Electra and Murphy meet at a party, he is a film student who wants to make movies out of “blood, sperm, and tears.”  He’s the obnoxious film guy who gets indignant when Electra admits she hasn’t seen 2001.  Give it a rest, bro.

Electra is a struggling artist with a drug problem and a complicated relationship with her parents.  Despite their issues, Electra and Murphy fall into a passionate relationship with an absolutely unnecessary number of sex scenes.  The two believe they will start a family and be together forever because their love is so twu.

A man and woman lean close together over a table in a Japanese restaurant.
Yet another reason to be grossed out by PDA.

Unfortunately, cracks begin to show quite quickly in this relationship (and not just ass cracks).  Electra’s ex, Noé (eye roll), has a successful gallery whose position to help her makes Murphy super jealous.  As the couple fights more and more, they go to extreme measures to save their relationship.  Naturally, this includes a visit to a gross underground sex club (I almost vomited when I thought about people having to clean this place), hiring a trans sex worker, and a threesome with a pretty young neighbor, Omi…aka Murphy’s future wife.

A dark-haired woman reclines in bed between a man and a blonde woman, smiling.
A rare moment of fully-clothedness.

What happened to drive the final nail in the coffin?  And will Electra ever be seen again?  Does anyone give a shit?

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, the only thing worse than seeing Murphy’s dick so many times that it stops looking real is hearing this douchebag’s internal monologue throughout the film.  I have absolutely no sympathy for this dude’s existential angst as everything bad that’s happened to him is his own fucking fault yet he still doesn’t learn to treat women better.

Just for fun, a selection of Murphy’s internal thoughts:

“A dick has only one purpose:  to fuck.”  (Dicks fuck assholes.)

“Men understand each other; we have respect for each other.”

“I’m not a slave to pussy.  Pussy is pussy.”

The nature of Murphy and Electra’s relationship is also horrific.  This film should’ve just been called Sex or Fucking because what they share is not love.  The two spend an insufferable amount of time talking about what a great couple they are, but they’re actually the worst.

Only watch this one if you want to watch a porno while insisting to your friends at a party that this is true art.

Would Christa have a self-pitying wallow with this one or cover it quickly with a towel (and/or kill it with fire)?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February: The Love Witch

Horror is this blog collab’s bread and butter, but as Christa and I have lamented, horror can be a terribly misogynistic genre.  How refreshing, then, to watch a female-centric horror about witches that has a lot to say about women and power just in time for the 2nd week of our 2nd Feminist February.  Complete with a lovely ’60s aesthetic, medieval pageantry, and harp accompaniment!

The Film:

The Love Witch

The Premise:

A young witch uses magic and sex appeal to find love and happiness in 1960s California.

The Uncondensed Version:

Elaine is a young woman on the way to start over in small-town California after husband Jerry’s mysterious death.  After his death, Elaine was reborn as a witch in a strange occult ritual (at least that’s what I gather).  Now that she has the power of love and sex magic at her disposal, she’s determined to find a man who won’t disappoint her like Jerry.

Once she settles into the new place, she befriends a neighbor, Trish, who takes her to a Victorian tea room.  It’s really bizarre and comes complete with a woman constantly playing the harp, and everything decorated with delicate cream and pastel pinks.  I’ve just really never been a pastel pink kind of girl.

In an elegantly decorated tea room, a woman in a large pink hat sits across from another woman at a table.
Clearly I just haven’t found the right pastel pink floppy hat.

Elaine tells Trish of her sordid past, which has taught her to give men everything they want in order for women to get what they want in turn.  Magic is simply a way to use your will to get what you want, and Elaine seems to have special magic staring powers to influence men.  As Trish (fairly) puts it, it sounds like Elaine has been brainwashed by the patriarchy.

Shortly after, Elaine uses her magic stare to invite herself back to a university professor’s cottage in the woods.  That, and a love potion laced with hallucinogenic herbs.  After sleeping with Elaine, the prof (Wayne) becomes incredibly emotional and obsessed with her, claiming he’s unable to live without her.  As it turns out, not an exaggeration—he dies very soon after, leaving Elaine with a body to bury and evidence to burn.

A woman stands over a cauldron, candles and pentacles covering the space around the cauldron.
It either needs more salt or more hallucinogenic herbs…

Rumors start flying around town around witch murders, casting doubt on the entire witch community.  It should be added that witchcraft is treated as just another religion in this film, with practices that look strange to the outside observer but no less valid than mainstream religions.  This begins to shift as the bodies pile up (spoiler?).

Determined to bounce back, Elaine sets her sights on Trish’s husband when he’s conveniently left alone for the weekend.  Let’s just say this doesn’t end well at all for him.

Meanwhile, the police are investigating Wayne’s suspicious disappearance and all signs point towards Elaine.  Luckily, Elaine still has that magic eye trick up her sleeve, and manages to get a horseback riding date (not a euphemism) with a detective (Griff) instead of a murder charge.  While out together, the pair encounter a group of witches having some sort of medieval pageant, including fake sword fights and songs about unicorns and goblets of joy.  Pretty cringe-y, TBH.  There, Elaine and Griff are bound together in a fake marriage ceremony, finally fulfilling Elaine’s happily ever after fantasy.  At least for the moment…  Believe me when I say the ending gets appropriately dark and gory.

A man and woman stand together in a marriage ceremony, with all members of the wedding party dressed in medieval style.
I personally prefer to see more unicorns in weddings.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The aesthetic is beautiful, and of course I’m all about feminism in films.  One of the biggest challenges in dissecting this one, however, is that none of the characters are particularly likeable.  It’s never overly clear to me whether Elaine believes her own nonsense re: men or, like magic, she’s using these lies to get what she wants.  She’s not as straightforwardly feminist as I expected, caught between wanting to assert her independence and hoping to live out her princess fantasies.  I was really hoping she would have a better relationship with Trish because I’m all about that female solidarity.

Compounding the problem of unlikeable characters is that of one-dimensional acting, which I think is supposed to be part of the tribute to ‘60s films…but sometimes I can’t actually tell either way.

The dialogue gets a bit preachy at times, hitting you over the head with its meaning.  Elaine gets some classic lines (“According to experts, men are fragile and can be crushed if you assert yourself”) along with some truly horrible lines (“I’m the love witch; I’m your ultimate fantasy”).

However, it’s nice to see a film address the complexity of feminist issues surrounding female sexuality in a world where “virgin slut” is an actual insult that can be hurled at women with no one blinking an eye.   I admit I’m still puzzling about this movie, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Would my blog wife marry this one in a fake a ceremony with this one while surrounded by witches or slip it one too many hallucinogenic herbs?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Grey Gardens, or: The Hallmark of Aristocracy Is Responsibility

We’re rounding out January with a classic that we have both officially watched now.  No more looking away uncomfortably at parties when someone asks if we’ve seen this week’s pick–not for these bloggers.  And btw, if you’re not attending the kind of party where Grey Gardens comes up in conversation…you are probably leading a quite interesting and fulfilling life.

The Film:

Grey Gardens

The Premise:

The classic documentary about the aunt and cousin of Jackie O who lived together in a decaying old house features much bickering, singing, flag waving, eating corn, and so many cats.

The Uncondensed Version:

Big Edie and Little Edie live together in an old mansion that has fallen into disrepair since their days of being wealthy, high society types ended.  The two women eventually cleaned up the house with the help of Little Edie’s cousin Jackie O, but still seem to be constantly on the verge of eviction.

It’s really difficult to gather an accurate picture of what happened in the past because of the constant bickering and one-upmanship of the two women, but it’s easy to sympathize with them.  Both seem to believe the lifestyle they assumed would be theirs forever is still relevant and sustainable.

an elderly woman lies propped up in bed, wearing a large floppy sun hat
One sustainable lifestyle choice: wearing big floppy hats.

Big Edie achieved some success as a singer in her prime along with her accompanist Gould.  Little Edie herself was a talented dancer…so there are A LOT of song and dance routines in this, some more cringey than others.  Their sudden financial decline was a result of Little Edie’s father, Phelan, leaving the family and getting what she calls a fake Mexican divorce(???).  Her point being that the Edies, as Catholics, do not acknowledge the divorce, but rather consider it a separation.

It’s really never clear to me what (if any) support Phelan provided to his family after leaving (very little, it would appear), and where Little Edie’s brothers are in all of this.  She mentions 2 brothers, but they never seem to visit or even attend Big Edie’s birthday party.  God fucking dammit, men.  Do better.

a gray tabby cat sleeps amidst a nest of wrapping paper
Here’s a cat to make you feel better.

Little Edie reveals she always wanted to marry and had many proposals from well-to-do gentlemen back in her day, which were all sabotaged by her mother.  Likewise, as she was about to get her big break in NYC when she had to return home to care for her mother.  It’s believable, but it also begs the question of the role of fear and comfort in Little Edie’s life.  She seems just as reluctant to leave the house as her mother and gets downright paranoid about someone secretly coming in to the house and moving her books.  Though she talks constantly about returning to NYC and never looking back, she hasn’t done so in the decades she’s lived with her mother in Grey Gardens.  Besides which, she seems unable and possibly unwilling to support herself, claiming she wants to be free and supported.

a woman in a long-sleeved black leotard and head scarf waves an American flag
“Free and supported” sounds like an ad campaign for bras or elastic-free underwear.

This mother-daughter relationship is extremely complicated, as Little Edie has cared for her mother for years but also blames her mother because she feels she has missed out on the opportunity to really live and enjoy life.  Big Edie oscillates between insisting she had men to take care of her and admitting she didn’t want Little Edie to leave her alone.

Little Edie is a self-described staunch character—and it becomes clear her mother matches this description too.  The two women appear to engage in a battle of wills daily, but make amends just as often.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure that’s a fair rating, but there’s something deeply unsettling here that is difficult to shake.  The documentary itself is fascinating to watch, but I found myself alternating between the type of fascination from listening to someone tell a really great story and the type you experience when you’re watching a train wreck.

There are many shots of the raccoons and cats that inhabit the house, and of the house itself.  It’s beautiful but covered in ivy and has gigantic holes and visible structural problems, which seems to be a metaphor for the Edies and their mental/emotional state.  Both are very sharp but live in a world they’ve created entirely separate from reality, willfully blind to how dire their situation is in many ways.

In a scene that captures this tension perfectly, Little Edie remarks that one of their many cats is going to the bathroom behind a beautifully painted portrait of a young Big Edie.  Instead of becoming upset, Big Edie remarks she’s glad someone is doing something they want to do.  It’s a moment full of humor, tenderness, heartbreak, and disgust all at once, and the very essence of this film—simultaneously in horror and admiration of these staunch characters.

a black cat's face peeks out from behind a framed piece of art
Aforementioned cat giving zero fucks.

Was my blog wife staunchly in favor or opposed to the multi-cat lifestyle depicted in this film?  Read her review here to find out!